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Friday, October 4, 2002

Atlantic County Merchants Doing Their Part To Restrict Sale of Cigarettes to Minors

Efforts to restrict the sale of cigarettes to minors are working in Atlantic County, according to recent statistics from the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services that reveal a 93% compliance rate among Atlantic County retail merchants. This is significantly above the statewide rate of 78%.

When the Atlantic County Division of Public Health conducted its initial survey in the early 1990's, only 5% of Atlantic County merchants were found to be in compliance with laws banning the sale of tobacco to minors. Since that time, county health officials have been working vigorously to educate area merchants about the state law and how to comply with it. Informational packets and training seminars were offered to more than 400 merchants in the county holding retail tobacco licenses. As a result, there has been a steady increase in compliance to this year's record setting rate of 93%.

"The numbers are extremely gratifying," stated County Executive Dennis Levinson. "They support our findings that Atlantic County merchants are abiding by the law by not selling cigarettes to anyone underage. It's a strong testament to the work of our Tobacco Age-of-Sale Education and Enforcement program."

Each year, 60% of the retail establishments are randomly checked for compliance by the Division's health inspectors. Those in compliance receive a placard to display in their stores. Those who are found guilty of selling to minors face fines up to $1,000 and possible revocation of their retail tobacco licenses under a state law adopted in 1996.

According to Atlantic County Public Health Officer Tracye McArdle, over 80% of today's adult smokers admit to picking up the habit as teens. "Our goal is twofold: educate youth about the dangers of smoking and help prevent them from starting by denying them access to cigarettes."

For more information about this program, call the Division of Public Health at (609) 645-5971.

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